Director Helps Give a Voice to Dallas’ Homeless

Editors’ Note: This feature appears as it was published in the spring 2018 edition of UT Dallas Magazine. Titles or faculty members listed may have changed since that time.
Palant said every ensemble he conducts has a different attitude about it, because each person comes to the experience with a different journey in life.
Every Wednesday morning, Dr. Jonathan Palant can be found at the Stewpot, a downtown Dallas social services and meal organization, greeting dozens of homeless people as they prepare to sing in the Dallas Street Choir that Palant founded more than three years ago.
“A piece of music called ‘Street Requiem’ was sent to me in 2014, and it was a piece to remember those who had died living homeless,” Palant told The Mercury student newspaper. “I wanted to do it with my community group, but it felt disingenuous to not include the street community.”
With support from Dallas businesses, concert presenters and individual donors, the Dallas Street Choir regularly performs throughout the city and recently toured the northeastern United States, with a stop at Carnegie Hall in New York City.
One of the singers, Carmelo Cabrera, lives in various shelters in downtown Dallas. He said the group is like a family and helps build members’ self-esteem.
“It’s an outlet, not only to get away from the cold, but also to sing and let people know that we are somebody,” Cabrera said. “Our motto is, ‘homeless, not voiceless.’ And it does that for each individual.”
The Stewpot rehearsal room is packed each week, with between 80 and 100 attendees, a majority of whom attend two to three times a month.
“One of the wonderful things about singing is the inclusive nature of that act. Everybody is needed and everybody is equal,” Palant said. “When you’re on the street, your obligations are to find shelter and to find food. There often isn’t anything else on your calendar. What we offer is a standing appointment. When Wednesday mornings come, members are ready to sing. We take it very seriously.”
At UTD, Palant conducts the University Choir, along with several other groups. He also teaches a music appreciation class and leads the University’s Chamber Singers.